Initial Questions

What are you doing?

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JFKWHP-ST-C291-20-63 · Initial Questions
Scott Demel
08 Nov 2018 Research, All

For the competition entry to the Kennedy Center public spaces submission, a designated placemaker was requested as a part of the design team.  Though this wasn’t the only recent unique request seen in recent pursuit and competition requests for projects.  The creation of “instagrammable moments” was another recently new judgment criteria for the selection of an architect for a project – and the term had even been seen in some project requests issued by the City of New York.


Just what was going on?  These notions were not the Vitruvian ideals of commodity, firmness and delight, or at least not framed in that way.


How is the success or value of an architectural project measured and what lens is used for this determination?  Some judgement examples could include:


  • Visitorship: Perhaps this is appropriate for a learning center, social services facility, library or a museum.
  • Number of business startups, or a count of jobs created:  Projects funded by municipalities and governments are always interested in these numbers.
  • Investment activity: A measure viewed by communities, politicians and financial investors to determine if particular projects, neighborhoods or regions have potential for sustainable activity or growth.
  • Real Estate Value Creation: A focus of all developers, whether private, institutional or municipal.
  • Housing Creation (unit count, quality, type)?  Or, Housing Cost (market v affordable): A pertinent topic in many growing cities in the US and around the world, affecting what persons and families can have homes and access to opportunities for living, employment and education.


To return to the idea of placemaking, the scale of it can be narrow or wide, encompassing an individual building, block, neighborhood, city, or an entire region.  But what makes place?  Is it architecture?  Or is it something else?

  • A favorable climate
  • Strong social networks
  • Economic opportunity
  • Good schools and access to education (all levels of learning: K-12, collegiate and continuing professional education)
  • Special Events (sports and community activities)
  • Access to quality food – fundamental grocery staples, restaurants, or a greater foodie scene
  • Resiliency: Physical (power, water, communication, etc) and Social
  • Access and integration of technology: How is technology integrated into daily life, and is it a driver or follower of built places.  Some technology influencers on urban and living experiences include opinion and social interfaces such as  Yelp and Facebook, location apps, ticketing/events, tracking and mapping mapping, transportation (public, private, autonomous), and security.


- or, –


  • Does design quality alone make place?
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